My experiences of travelling in Zimbabwe 1996

In no way is this information an accurate and up to date guide. Always buy an up to date travel book for the countries you are visiting.

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The "town" consists of a large plush hotel, a holiday resort of chalets and camping facilities and the "terminal" for the Lake Kariba Ferry, there are a number of simple buildings which are provided as accommodation for the staff of the various facilities. I decided to pamper myself and I paid for three nights in a 3 bed chalet, it cost the equivalent of 18 Pounds Sterling a night.

I arrived at Mlibizi on a Wednesday afternoon, tickets for the ferry journey up Lake Kariba were sold at the reception of the holiday resort where I had chosen to stay. As I've said previously I stayed at Mlibizi for three nights, this was because the next ferry up the lake to Kariba wasn't until Saturday. It turned out that the guy at reception didn't have any spare tickets, he did telephone the ferry operator's head office in Kariba to make sure there would be space for me. So, I had to kick my heels in Mlibizi until early Saturday morning and then hope that there really was space on the ferry for me.

My chalet at Mlibizi

Ferry journey up Lake Kariba

Saturday morning came all too soon, I had spent the time since Wednesday lazing around and exploring my surroundings. I packed up my stuff handed in my key at the reception and made my way to the 'ferry terminal' :-) Just outside the entrance to the Mlibizi Chalets and Camping facilities where I had been staying since Wednesday was the top of the 'slipway'. Actually this turned out to be a steep dusty track leading to the point where the ferry docked. For the moment though, all the passengers had to wait at the top of this slipway while the crew prepared the ferry for departure.

It had just arrived from Kariba that morning, as far as I remember it was due to leave Mlibizi for the return trip at 9 o'clock, so it must have been around 8 at the moment. I had come up this early, a) because I was told to and b) the porch of the chalet where I had been sleeping looked out onto Lake Kariba and I had heard the ferry arrive.

The view from the porch of my chalet at Mlibizi
On the other side of Lake Kariba you can see Zambia

The foot passengers, i.e. me and a couple of others were allowed onto the ferry first. The procedure of loading all the cars was then started. The ferry doesn't appear to hold many cars but those guys know how to fit cars in a boat alright! After about three quarters of an hour we were ready to start our 220km journey, which would take us 22 hours.

If the account of my travels is starting to sound sketchy I must tell you that I have written all these travel pages from memory. It is now six or seven months since I returned to England from Africa, so please bare with me.

Within five minutes of leaving Mlibizi we had seen Hippopotamuses wallowing in the shallows of the lake, I was glad to see some at last rather than hear them, as I had just spent the last few evenings listening to the local hippos clearing their throats! :-)

The journey up the lake was very leisurely until it started to rain in the afternoon, this quickly turned from annoying spots of rain into a real African storm with thunder, lightning and high winds. The bad weather continued until early evening, the sky seemed to clear as quickly as it had turned grey that afternoon. One amusing incident of our stormy afternoon couped up together in one room of the ferry goes as follows:

There are a number of small islands dotted along the length of Lake Kariba, we were passing one of these islands when a middle aged South African woman woke up and looked out of the window to see the island off our port side. She then started jumping up and down and shouting to the crew "Why is Zambia so close?", so the crew calmed her down by showing her a map of the lake and explaining that it was just an island. Silly woman! :-)

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Last Updated on 14th December 1996 at 16:23:57

All images ©1996 Ian Simmins
© 1996 Ian Simmins